Jake Bain hated making the decision to leave the Indiana State football team, especially with the connotation of quitting. But the 19-year-old openly gay athlete knew it was necessary.
“My decision to leave football had nothing to do with my sexuality or how I was treated at Indiana State,” Bain told Outsports. “I had a very good conversation with Coach [Curt] Mallory as my playing career came to an end. I could not have asked for a more accepting group of coaches and teammates than I had this past year, and I am truly going to miss being a part of the program, and will always be a Sycamore.
“For a long time I have struggled with my mental health, and unfortunately never took the time to address it due to the fears of how I would be perceived and the many years I spent trying to hide myself.
“I have come to the realization that mental health is not something you can ignore and expect to get better, and that it why I have decided to step away from my playing career and take time to work on myself and be the best that I can be.
“Though my playing career has come to an end much sooner than I had anticipated, I hope to continue to use my experience and platform to show every other kid out there who was like me and didn’t feel like there was a place for the LGBTQ+ community in sports that you don’t have to let your sexual orientation hold you back from doing what you love.”
Bain will continue to be a student at Indiana State and is finishing up his freshman year. The former all-state high school football star in St. Louis came out publicly in December 2017 and quickly became a sought-after speaker as a gay teenager playing a macho sport.
It also helped his profile when he was protested by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist crazies and his high school classmates rallied around him. When he went to the senior prom with his boyfriend, Hunter Sigmund, it became a viral Twitter moment.
The acceptance from Mallory at Indiana State, who recruited him knowing he was openly gay, got the attention of the “Ellen” show and a feature in the New York Times. Heady stuff for someone so young, and at times this year his Instagram hinted that he was struggling, as this January post captioned: “Sometimes It’s okay to have those days where you wish you didn’t have to leave your bed.”
Bain ends his college football career have played in parts of four games last season. He was set to transition from defensive back to wide receiver this season. The parting was amicable.
“Jake has decided to step away from football and focus on academics,” Indiana State coach Curt Mallory said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star. “He showed a fantastic work ethic during his freshman season and represented himself, the football program and Indiana State in a first-class manner. We wish him nothing but the best.”
As Bain transitions to a new phase of his life, being an activist is still very much a part of what he wants to be.
“I will continue to advocate for other LGBTQ+ athletes to promote equality in sports, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Bain said. “I hope to get involved with organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and others to continue to working towards creating a more inclusive and acceptting environment where who you love has no bearing on who you are or what you do.”